I’m updating my resume to include my weekend foray as a Metro Planning Engineer.
On Saturday, I turned a discarded futon frame that was sitting out on 23rd and Norman into a Metro Bus bench.
The goofy term for DIY infrastructure fixes like this is: “tactical urbanism.”
And in this case, the fix was combined with another urbanist concept (and yet another goofy term) “desire lines.”
Desire Lines are more literally applicable to pedestrian, bike, and car infrastructure, but dragging a trashed futon that’s sitting about 10 feet away from a bus stop over to the pedestrian shelter and turning it into a bench makes sense in this frame (ha!). Consider how annoying it is that bust stops (double ha) often fail when it comes to having adequate seating. Usually, when I want to sit at a bus stop, I can’t because either the bench is weird and cramped or there’s no bench at all. In short, Metro is forcing me to stand.
In her book Street Fight, Janette Sadik-Khan defines the idea of “desire lines” this way:
Desire lines are naturally occurring travel patterns that reflect where people naturally want to travel. In modern urban planning, desire lines are the natural, spontaneous way that people use public spaces, often contradicting the way the space was designed. These signatures are usually direct, practical, and leave physical evidence, like a footpath worn into a park lawn where pedestrians cut a corner to get from one sidewalk to another. They may also become visible over time and reveal themselves deductively, such as when people ride bikes through a park for one block to reach a bridge entrance instead of taking a three-block route along one-way streets.
Desire line are the native operating code for a new approach to urban design. Instead of asking why people aren’t following the rules and design of the road, we need to ask ourselves why the rules and design of the road aren’t following the people…
Sometimes, the people desire a seat, damn it.
And just like bending pedestrian infrastructure to a more efficient and natural route reflects how people actually want to travel, forcing a bus stop to do what you want it to do meets the definition of meeting people’s natural inclination as well.
Per the definition, this Desire Lines hack also left physical evidence.
Still there a week later: